Thursday, May 7, 2015


I have been praying the Alcoholics Anonymous prayer, also known as the Serenity prayer.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.  The courage to change the things I can.  And the wisdom to know the difference."

I have read that prayer dozens of time - thought it was a beautiful sentiment and moved on.  That prayer isn't for me. There's nothing that cannot be changed.  Identify the problem.  Develop a plan of action.  Execute. Problem Solved.  Move on to next problem.  Change occurs every day if you work hard enough, follow the chain of command, and model the solution.

It seems lately I keep running into situations where there is a brick wall.  The walls won't move. It ticks me off.  I push a little harder.  I look around and ask am I the only one seeing this wall?  I look at the wall from different angles and think of how it can be taken down brick by brick.  The wall has got to go.

It stays. The prayer takes on a different meaning for me.  I don't doubt that change will come. I am just now learning to accept that I won't be the one to drive the wrecking ball through the wall. We're giving the MAP test at my school.  I remember listening to my first principal talk to me about MAP scores 16 years ago when I asked him if I could teach reading in guided reading groups.  He asked me if I thought it would help MAP scores.  I remember thinking in my head I really don't care.  I did not become a teacher to help students pass a test.  I became a teacher because I love to read and I know teachers can change lives.  I've written my Congress members, commented on Facebook posts trying to educate the public, voted for like-minded politicians, started following DESE on Twitter (so far they haven't given me one gold star), but the conversation still comes down to one test.  I want to beat this wall senseless.

I see the walls, and  I am asking God about it.  Are you wanting me to shut up, climb over it, or just bust it down?  Please don't make me live with it.  1 John 3:20 tells us "that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."  He knows why those walls are there even when I don't, and this is where serenity is needed most:  the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Serenity when I feel the complete opposite.  I love the thought though that He knows when the wrecking ball will deliver its fatal blow.  So I am tacking on a little something to the serenity prayer.  Please let me live long enough to see change come. Amen!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Could Have Been

I could have been a mother of teenager today.  Truthfully, I cannot wrap my mind around that.  

At that 18 week ultrasound, when our dreams were completely crushed, we were offered an abortion.  You could say faith or naivety prompted our refusal. To this day, those six months of our lives were the hardest days of our 41 years.  Yet, our answer would be the same.  

If things had gone differently, we could have been parents to 4 or 6 children like we planned on a Harding swing.  Now that I think about it, my life is full of could have beens. 

Maybe yours is too. Could have been are three little words that create a big trap.  We all have roads not taken either by choice or circumstance. Regret creates a jail without escape. If you are sitting in one of those cells right now, you will find this hard to believe. I am grateful for all my could have beens that weren't.  

You may not be there yet, but your could have beens are bringing you something better.  That's almost harsh to someone who is hurting, I know. The could have been seems like the only thing you want and the only thing that will stop the pain.  And here it comes - BUT, your tears will be dried and your heart will be put back together.  You will see your could have been mirrored in someone else's life, and it won't stab you with jealousy.  One day, your heart will hold so much joy that you marvel at its capacity to regenerate.  Your blessings are being multiplied by your could have beens.   

Lauran is my greatest could have been, and I know my today is better because she was.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dad!

I couldn't tell you who I am more alike - my mom or my dad.  I like to think that I am the best of both of them.  My dad turns 66 today.  Since he has far outlived his own predictions of life expectancy, I dare not wait to share this.  
My walk of faith wouldn't be the same without my dad.  If you don't have a faith or participate in church, your view of those who do so may be skewed towards a popular opinion that all Christians pretend to be perfect.  One of the things I love most about my dad is that he has never hid his mistakes. He'll be the first to tell you that he has made some big ones. He would also be the first to tell you that we serve an AMAZING GOD who forgives over and over. By allowing me to see him fall, dust himself off, and start over reminds me to do the same and to let go of the idea that in order to love God, we must be perfect.   It's really in our mistakes that God reveals His perfection.

I am passionate about two things (besides family) - God and teaching.  I like to think that I have been given the gift of vision (some might say arrogance) to see what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and who needs do it.  I have to say right now that I am grateful for my family and friends who love me even when I get fired up and share such visions.  They're not always popular if you can imagine it.  Both my mom and dad are wonderful listeners, and they both have their own response style to those visions.  My dad responds in one of two ways: "Keep speaking up until someone listens.  You are fighting the good fight."  or "Does this really matter?  Is it going to change your walk or Tony's or Parker's or Macy's or someone else's?  Do your students need you to fight this battle?  If you can't say yes, walk away. It's not your fight."  Either response gives me courage.

My dad dreams bigger dreams for me than I dream for myself.  Throughout my whole life, both my mom and dad have told me over and over that I can do it. Now as an adult and a parent, I have a deeper appreciation of those words. There a plenty of people who delight in other's failures.  Joy robbers are everywhere. It's rare to hear an adult tell another adult - "You can do this. It's in your reach."  But at 40 years old, both my parents still tell me that I can do it whatever it may be.  My dad will randomly call me and say "Jenny, I think you should ______________. You have a gift." In full disclosure, I roll my eyes and say "Sure, dad.  I've got time for that."   But it is nice to know that someone is dreaming for me.  Then I turn to God and think how narrow my view of what I can do is compared to what God can do through me, and I have to wonder if maybe my dad is right after all.  I CAN do it.

Dad's end of life and funeral talk has become a running joke in our family.  Dad has always been aware that his dad died so very young and heart problems run in his family history.  Obviously, he has outlived his predictions.  Even in this, I see God.  No matter how old we get, God is always at work in us to help us produce good works.  

May you continue to produce good work, Dad! I love you!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Is love alive?

I don't know why Winter Song is classified as a Christmas song, but I love it. Every time it comes on, I am moved.  It asks the question that we all are asking ourselves.  Is love alive?
The ten o'clock news answers no.  Just last night, two teens trail an UPS truck stealing packages off people's front porches.  A mother stabs her 19 month old to death. St. Louis homicide number keeps rising with two more murders. There is no love.
Then in the last few weeks, the news and social media has blown up with images of the tension in our streets.  Yelling, vandalism, looting all testify that there is no love.
People everywhere are struggling with something.  Many feel alone and without hope.  Is love alive? The darkness lies and answers no, love has died. 
How can I possibly know that is a lie and not the truth?  How can I reject that love has died when the evidence points to the very fact - love cannot be found?

Because I see you.

I see my coworkers give of themselves.  Donating money to a family whose children (yes, that is right - plural) are battling cancer.  I see them buy sodas as a special prize.  I see them take care of mother-in-laws who are sick. I see hugs given every day. In big and small ways, they always answer yes when someone asks or they recognize a need for help. I see love.

I sit next to my friend while our daughters are in dance class.  She visits a home of a single mom who just had a baby and has nothing under the tree for her other children.  She asks if our small group can pull off Christmas for the children.  Absolutely.  It is never too late to help out.  I feel love.

Encouraging texts come through my phone every morning. I read love.

I look around at church this past Sunday morning, and I know we are a broken people.  But I see people being healed by love. I see the people I "do life" with. I am surrounded by love.

A star in the dark night sky alerted the Magi that love had come in the form of a baby. His love drives out the darkness and replaces it with light. 

Is love alive?  Yes, yes it is.  


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Master

"No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and Money."  Matthew 6:24-25  I have never felt connected to this verse.  I didn't understand the frustration that comes from trying to serve two masters until now.  
I was so fresh out of college that I might as well have worn my graduation gown to the interview. I didn't know much.  In fact, I didn't know anything about the programs the district used to implement the Texas objectives.  But in a crowded room and sensing that my name was about to be scratched off the list, I made eye contact with the principal and said:  "You will never regret hiring me.  Thank you for the opportunity to interview for a position."  Three days later, I became a first grade teacher.  I knew from the very beginning what I wanted to accomplish.  I wanted a classroom full of readers and students, who when they left my classroom, never stopped wanting to learn.  
A lot has happened since then.  Benchmarks and tests were important 18 years ago, but now they have become a master. They believe each child is a number and that number better grow.  They want readers who can annotate a text and provide evidence to support their answer.  They want students to defend absolutes.  They don't ask if the child willingly picks up a book to read.  They don't ask if the child has a favorite author.  They don't ask to see the math problems a number-loving child writes in his math journal.  They don't ask how a child feels about coming to school.  Those things can't be quantified.  
As teachers, we constantly question how to please the master.  We wrestle with the costs the master requires and if we can pay the price.  Last year, I drove myself crazy trying to please that master.  I felt defeated and empty at the end of the year.  I took the summer to reflect and contemplate other career choices. But I decided to return to the classroom that has been my home for the last 15 years.  I told myself that I would honor the master, but I would see my students for who they were - the little girl celebrating her birthday, the boy who tells me he goes without lunch on the weekends, the students who clap when I finish reading a book to them.  I would not turn them into numbers on a spreadsheet. The last two weeks I have been giving benchmarks, grading them, and entering scores into a spreadsheet.  The master tells me that many of my students have failed so, therefore, I too have failed. 
I refuse to believe it.  My room is full of readers and students, who I hope and pray, will always love to learn.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

It's Possible

Dark, gloomy skies loomed overhead as eight gray lanes stretched ahead on our drive to church Sunday morning.  The stretch of I-70 through St. Charles could use a makeover.  I was looking around trying to find one redeeming factor, and all of a sudden I noticed a sharp green weed growing through a crack. Then tons of weeds sprouting up through drainage bars.  Mile after mile, slivers of green go unnoticed. I laughed to myself thinking isn't that just like God?    
In the middle of divorce, we think we won't love again. But we do.  In the middle of loss, we think we can never laugh again. But we do.  In the middle of job searching, we think we will never find one. But we do.  In the middle of gross injustices, we think peace will never come. But it will.  Our God is the God of the impossible.
Whatever circumstances you are in, whatever circumstances our city is in, whatever circumstances our friends across the ocean are in, our God can take our worst and turn into our best.  "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 29:11-14) 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back in the Habit

I haven't written since Pa died. I can only write what is on my heart and that was where Pa was.  Grief is a personal experience, and I didn't want my feelings to hurt any of my family or share something that they would want held private. Then I got out of the habit, and no one seemed to miss it so I put it on a shelf.  
I have had an amazing 3 days attending Franklin Covey's 7 Habits of Successful People.  I've used their book, Leader in Me, in my classroom this past year. It's good stuff.  The training was looking at ourselves and how to apply the habits to our personal lives.  Now, I LOVE personality quizzes and self-reflection. I get that's not everyone's cup of tea and that's fine too.  But bear with me. Going through all of that self-reflection, I realized that I love to write.  It brings me clarity and peace.  I realized in the past that I wanted to encourage others with my writing and never realized that I was encouraging myself in the process. I need that in my life, and I am ok sharing that with you. :)